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Do you trust your finger?

HungryLetsEat Jul 9, 2007 02:05 PM

...or do you use a meat thermometer to test the done-ness of a piece of meat? I haven't learned to trust the finger/pressure test yet so if it's a large piece of meat I generally use a meat thermometer. (I don't always trust it though.) I will admit that when pressed for time I will just cut open one of the steaks/chops/patties to assess done-ness. I know, this is wrong wrong wrong because all of the juices escape.

What are your meat-testing tips?

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  1. julietg RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 9, 2007 03:28 PM

    the palm test, my friend

    from an article on WTNH.com

    - For a rare steak: Squeeze the pad at the base of your thumb. It should feel spongy and offer very little resistance.

    - For a medium steak: Press on the middle of the palm of your outstretched hand. It should feel firm and snap back quickly.

    - For a well-done steak: Squeeze the base off your small finger. It should feel very firm, with almost no give. However, Morton's chefs strongly advise against cooking beyond medium, noting that doing so is likely to dry out the meat and rob it of its flavor and tenderness.

    1. jfood RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 9, 2007 07:13 PM

      single person steak, the finger and the gut feeling has been a good indicator after 30+ years of practice. For thicker cuts a thermometer in the side and leave it there. Usually within 10 degrees from the jfood belly feel, so not on the grill very ling.

      1. m
        mojoeater RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 9, 2007 08:44 PM

        I'll cut into chicken on occasion, but not a burger or steak. Nor will I impale them with a thermometer. Oh no. I don't usually roast large pieces of meat, but if I do I'll use a thermometer. The center is simply too deep!

        1. f
          foodstorm RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 9, 2007 09:28 PM

          Why is that wrong wrong wrong? Just be sure to have one extra serving that you can slice into (and snack on while you're pulling the rest of the meal together, heh!). When it's "done," you can serve up the rest unscathed and no one has to know your dirty little secret!

          8 Replies
          1. re: foodstorm
            cheftori RE: foodstorm Jul 10, 2007 05:57 PM

            It is wrong, wrong, wrong because the meat has not had a chance to rest yet. While the meat is cooking the juices tend to come to the surface. If you cut into it while it is cooking (or immediately as you remove it from the heat source) all of the juice will run out of the meat. Without the juice the meat will overcook itself - nothing instantly stops cooking when it it removed from the heat source - carry over cooking.
            If you give the meat a chance to rest - the juices will even out and keep everything moist flavorful and tender.

            Trust the finger. Besides you can always cook something longer, but you can not un-cook it.

            1. re: cheftori
              foodstorm RE: cheftori Jul 10, 2007 09:10 PM

              I was being facetious, or trying to, but oh well.

              1. re: foodstorm
                Lemonii RE: foodstorm Jul 11, 2007 08:39 AM

                I agree with you foodstorm; at least during the learning process of trusting the finger (who cares if the juices run out of your test piece of chicken). While practicing for the finger squeeze method I will give it a squeeze with my finger, remember what it felt like, then cut that test piece open and see if I was right about it's doneness! Take a bite to see about salt/spices and save the rest for a shredded chicken salad for lunch the next day. Eventually I won't have to cut into it to see.

                1. re: Lemonii
                  soupkitten RE: Lemonii Jul 11, 2007 08:55 AM

                  actually the finger test is for steaks & chops, not poultry--

                  1. re: soupkitten
                    Lemonii RE: soupkitten Jul 11, 2007 12:36 PM

                    Darn, I don't really eat red meat.... I need a method for chicken! Especially fried chicken. I never know when that is done!

                    1. re: Lemonii
                      soupkitten RE: Lemonii Jul 11, 2007 01:21 PM

                      as RGC1982 says below, you can jiggle the leg on a whole chicken-- if it moves easily it is done. with cut up chicken i can usually eyeball it well by the weight of the chicken (whole breasts take longer etc), but i wouldn't hesitate to do the pink juice test if we're talking underdone poultry

                      1. re: Lemonii
                        Will Owen RE: Lemonii Jul 12, 2007 02:24 PM

                        I don't think the "don't cut" rule applies to chicken, or at least I've never noticed any loss of juiciness when I cut into a piece to see if it's done at the bone. Of course I check the larger pieces that way, always the thigh; if it's done, everything's done.

                        I've only recently begun using the finger method, because I've only recently begun grilling steaks regularly. I was astonished at how immediately intuitive it was.

                    2. re: Lemonii
                      foodstorm RE: Lemonii Jul 11, 2007 10:59 PM

                      Well thanks, but I really was kind of joking. Anyone remember that old beef commercial from, I dunno, the '80s maybe, with James Garner (I think) grilling up a whole load o' steaks, and he keeps cutting little chunks off of the "extra" one until the steaks are "perfect" by which time he has eaten all the "evidence"? I think it was a shameless ploy to get people to buy one extra cut of meat rather that a legitimate cooking method.

              2. Sam Fujisaka RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 9, 2007 09:44 PM

                Trust your finger.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  beevod RE: Sam Fujisaka Jul 10, 2007 08:11 AM

                  I definitely trust my finger.

                  1. re: beevod
                    Hungry Celeste RE: beevod Jul 11, 2007 09:12 AM

                    Me too, but only for steaks/thin cuts. For thicker pieces/roasts, I always use a thermometer.

                2. jpschust RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 10, 2007 08:14 AM

                  He who cuts into or prods my steak gets it back. Trust your touch, err on the side of rare.

                  1. Kajikit RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 10, 2007 08:19 AM

                    I just use a knife and make sure that I only cut my piece up... it helps that I like my meat much more well-done than DH - cook the meat until I think his is done, then cut mine in half and check, and if I'm right, take his off the stove and cook mine for another two minutes.
                    I don't even own a meat thermometer!

                    1. thenurse RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 10, 2007 08:50 AM

                      Don't own a meat thermometer and rarely grill steak. When I do, it's done perfectly (medium rare). Have to learn to trust the gut/finger. I am going to adopt the 'he who cuts into or prods my steak gets it back' mantra.
                      Works for chicken, pork and everything else. Helps when you know your grill and appliance temperatures well.

                      1. s
                        swsidejim RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 10, 2007 09:08 AM

                        I trust/use the finger method.

                        1. s
                          soupkitten RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 10, 2007 12:44 PM


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: soupkitten
                            RGC1982 RE: soupkitten Jul 10, 2007 07:19 PM

                            If you can easily jiggle the chicken leg on a whole chicken, it is done. I use a finger for burgers and steaks, an instant read on a roast in the oven.

                          2. m
                            missfunkysoul RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 11, 2007 04:27 PM

                            it may be wrong, but i cut into a piece also. it's the way my grandmother did it and i generally have no patience for fumbling with/cleaning a thermometer... works for me.

                            1. f
                              foodstorm RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 11, 2007 10:46 PM

                              Anyone read July '07 SAVEUR ("The STEAK Issue")--p. 50, "Is It Done Yet?"

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: foodstorm
                                HungryLetsEat RE: foodstorm Jul 12, 2007 06:04 AM

                                No - I let my subscription to SAVEUR lapse. WHat did it say?

                                1. re: HungryLetsEat
                                  foodstorm RE: HungryLetsEat Jul 13, 2007 08:19 AM

                                  They don't seem to trust their finger. Or their thermometer.

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